It’s not often that a civilian gets to order the crew of a U.S. Navy warship to stand down, but that’s essentially what happened on Sunday off Dana Point, California.
The civilian was Captain Todd Mansur of the Dana Pride, which operates out of Dana Wharf Whale Watching. Mansur noticed that the 419-foot USS Coronado, a new battleship that will be commissioned in San Diego on April 5, was on a collision course with two migrating gray whales.
A Facebook post from Dana Wharf Whale Watching reads: "Wow, this warship almost ran over some Gray Whales! Good thing Captain Todd [Mansur] warned them and they came to a stop!"
Mansur said in a phone interview that he reached the USS Coronado crew via radio and the vessel stopped immediately. Mansur said that the ship “stopped on a dime,” and once the whales had safely passed, the vessel resumed its coastal cruise.
“They were traveling very slowly, and when I alerted them they were able to stop the boat instantly,” said Mansur, who spent much of Tuesday conducting interviews with network and local media. “They weren’t doing anything reckless, and they were very courteous.”
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U.S. Third Fleet Lt. Lenaya Rotklein told the Orange County Register that the ship did receive a call from Mansur and that it had stopped to avoid the whales.
"That’s just standard operating procedures for us," Rotklein said.
The high-speed warship, built in Alabama, is the Navy's fourth littoral combat ship. It's designed to carry out missions close to the coast and is powered by thrusters instead of propellers, enabling access to shallow water (it has a draft of only 14.4 feet).
According to the vessel's website, the USS Coronado “is designed to defeat asymmetric ‘anti-access’ threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines, and fast surface craft.”
Gray whales are beginning their 6,000-mile migration from Baja California nursing grounds to Arctic summer feeding grounds.
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